The Government is to conduct the UK's first secure mobile electronic signature trial in a scheme that will go some way to proving whether mobile mcommerce is a viable business proposition, or just the latest fad.
From next month, staff at the Radiocommunications Agency will use digital certificate technology to submit expense claims by mobile phones.
During the trial 50 employees of the Department of Trade and Industry agency will complete and electronically sign their travel or subsistence forms using a Vodafone supplied Siemens C35i digital GSM mobile phone.
When prompted, users will enter a PIN number to release a cryptographic signature held on the phone's smartcard. This signature will be used to encode data sent so that its recipient can be sure any message has not been tampered with.
We've long harboured our doubts about the hype surrounding mobile commerce but at least this trial features a mildy useful application instead of some far-fetched notion of using location-based services to order cups of coffee.
Furthermore Vodafone sees the Government trial for the kind of scheme it would like to introduce to the wider business community and eventually the public, so the success or otherwise of the project will provide some important pointers for the future.
Vodafone plans to make mobile telephones featuring digital signature technology commercially available later this year after proving the technology through the Radiocommunications Agency project and other trials.
Paul Donovan, the commercial managing director at Vodafone, said: "Using information contained on their SIM smartcard, present in mobile phones, Vodafone customers will have the potential to use their mobile device whenever and wherever they currently use their signature." ®